I just thought I’d give some background to my recent unfortunate outbursts in the online world.
I work in primary schools and for a number of years have been helping (and directly teaching) teachers with ICT lessons. When I first came along, teachers had recently been on a computing control course using the original Mk1 Lego mindstorms – they came back from a one day course and unless they immediately tried it out by the time the came to use the one set that each school bought – they’d forgotten how to do it.
So they went into cupboards.
Along came the Data Harvest FloGo box – brilliant hardware concept – very robust – £100 so quite pricey and the software used uses old style flow-charting techniques – easy to get started but soon becomes quite messy.
I worked in a school cluster and we collaborated on fairground ride type stuff mixing Design Technology with Control Programming.
Then in 2005, along came Scratch and I loved it. Here was the Lego equivalent for programming for kids. I started teaching it in Year 6 and then pushed it down over the years to Year 3.
The only problem was the lack of an external interface box like the FloGo so everything had to be simulated and I missed being able to control lights and motors.
Then 2 years ago, the Raspberry Pi appeared
I bought one as soon as I could, I went to Preston and Manchester Raspberry Jams, I saw the PiFace borrowed their code and got Scratch on the Pi to control lights and motors via the GPIO pins using a few £ worth of components.
The integration of an open platform being able to run high level code is fantastic and I thought – great – there will soon be affordable packaged versions of this ready to use in classrooms up and down the land.
I persuaded my schools that this was the way forward and they clubbed together to buy 6 other Pi and I used them to run after school clubs – controlling Robots in 2012-13 school year and trialing Scratch interfacing to the real world.
Having learnt Python and interfacing it with Scratch, I also worked on doing the same to let Scratch on PC/Mac/Linux laptops/desktops control Arduino based devices including the £3 Shrimp.
Although a complete Arduino package was much cheaper than the equivalent Pi setup, the lack of integration in one unit meant it is harder to produce an easy software Scratch interface and so I switched back to developing on the Pi.
I’d hoped by the end of that year, that the Foundation would be ready to roll out whatever they had planned for UK schools for the start of the school year in Sep 2013 but nothing appeared.
I picked up a few hints that something big might be announced at the 2014 Jamboree but nothing concrete appeared.
I had spoken to a number of people and said that I would be coming out into the open to complain about the lack of evident progress but as usual, the way I expressed myself (or more accurately – my bad reaction to the Foundations reaction to my forum post) has led to a lot of trouble all-round which is not good.
Now, I’m hoping that people can separate inter-personal differences and respond positively to getting the Pi INTO schools in a big way.